Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning, saying that he no longer had the strength to fulfil the duties of his office.
The news apparently came as a surprise, even to the Pope's close aides, and the last time there was a papal resignation was in 1415, when Pope Gregory XII stepped down.
The Telegraph's Chief reporter Gordon Rayner said that the unprecedented move had led some people to question why he had made the decision.
"Italians are great conspiracy theorists, so they are all looking for other reasons why he may have quit," he said.
"I think the most popular reason that people were coming up with was that they just think perhaps he is much more ill than we have been told."
He added that the Vatican had tried to end speculation that the Pope's decision might have been influenced by outside pressures, by saying that Benedict had made up his own mind to step down.
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